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Mathieu van der Poel dominates slippery Ronde van Vlaanderen

World champion claims hat trick of wins on chaotic day

Photo by: Sirotti

Mathieu van der Poel soloed to his third Ronde van Vlaanderen title on Sunday, attacking past a floundering Ivan Garcia Cortina on the Koppenberg 45 km from the finish. With a hat trick, the Dutchman joins Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and four others in a tie for most Tour of Flanders victories. Slippery conditions made for a chaotic day; both Canadian entrants crashed and Guillaume Boivin had to abandon.

The world champion attacks on the Koppenberg.

After the finish van der Poel said, “I cannot think about Roubaix yet. I’m really really f****d at the moment. That’s one of the hardest races I’ve ever done.”

The Course

Awaiting the riders were seventeen climbs, most of them cobbled, in the latter half of 270 km. The formidable cobbled duo of Oude Kwaremont–Paterberg would be tackled twice and comprised the day’s final ascents. The Koppenberg, Taaienberg and Oude Kruisberg/Hotond were possible ambush points as well. The last Paterberg peaked 15 km from the finish line on the Minderbroedersstraat in Oudenaarde. It was rather slick out there.

The Lineups

Hugo Houle and Guillaume Boivin were back in action for Israel-Premier Tech. Last year’s champion Tadej Pogacar was off training, the other podium men van der Poel and Mads Pedersen were the favorites, and the 2023 fourth place Wout van Aert was injured at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

An octet of fugitives got loose early, stopping after 68 km to let a train pass. With 128 km to go, Boivin and a few others crashed and the Canadian had to abandon the race. The attacks in the peloton increased between Wolvenberg and Molenberg. Pedersen, van der Poel and Matteo Jorgenson all made thrusts that were parried. With 90 km to go it was Houle’s turn to crash.

After Valkenberg, Pedersen attacked again and Gianni Vermeersch of Soudal-Quick Step joined in. Alpecin-Deceuninck chased.

By the first Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg coupling, the Dane and Belgian had 23 seconds on the peloton. Oier Lazcano and van der Poel caught them on Kwaremont.

Van der Poel leads the way on the second ascent of Oude Kwaremont with 56 km to go.

Paterberg I was where Lazcano’s teammate Ivan Garcia Cortina skipped away. Cobbled Koppenberg was the steepest climb of the day, and Cortina met its grades 21 seconds clear of a powerful chase group of 13. The unlucky Spaniard suffered a mechanical on the worst slope, so van der Poel passed him, Jorgenson the closest chaser. Many riders had to get off and push.

Mayhem on the Koppenberg.

Jorgenson had the hard task of yanking back the world champion before the next sector of cobbles and climb. The Dutch giant started the Taaienberg over half a minute ahead of the American and a minute clear of the next chase group. Jorgenson was absorbed. Pedersen had to work to link up with

The last three climbs had little influence on who would win the 108th Tour of Flanders–now it was about the podium. Pedersen and Jorgenson both struggled on Oude Kruisberg/Hotond. Alberto Bettiol and Dylan Teuns flew the coop, Tim Wellens and Cortina chased after them, and the Pedersen-Jorgensen sextet pursued in turn.

Van der Poel was screamed up the Oude Kwaremont by delirious fans knowing they were witnessing history. When chase groups 2 and 3 came together on the cobbles, the new gang was comprised of four UAE-Emirates riders out of ten.

The podium battle on the Paterberg’s final clamber.

Bettiol and Teuns would not relent in the flat before Oudenaarde but they were caught 250 meters from the line, Luca Mozzato runner-up. At first Michael Matthews looked to have secured the podium, but the jury declared that he had used an irregular sprint line and awarded third to Nils Politt.

Next Sunday is Paris-Roubaix, but the WorldTour stage race Itzulia Basque Country kicks off with a time trial on Easter Monday.

2024 Tour of Flanders
1) Mathieu van der Poel (The Netherlands/Alpecin-Deceuninck) 6:05:17
2) Luca Mozzato (Italy/Arkea-B&B Hotels) +1:02
3) Nils Politt (Germany/UAE-Emirates) s.t.